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Cordcutter News Brief - Political ads flood streaming services, revealing loopholes in election laws; virtual pay TV providers' growth slows; and more!

February 21, 2020 - 15:06 -- RokuGuide

Cordcutter News BriefsIn this week's collection of recent cord-cutting news items from around the web: CBS planning an improved streaming service, the real streaming battle, political ads flood streaming services and reveal loopholes in election laws, Disney+ native app now on Vizio smart TVs, Pluto TV expected to reach 30 million monthly viewers by December, virtual pay TV providers' growth slows, and more!

CBS is planning an improved streaming service

TheVerge reports that ViacomCBS, owner of CBS All Access, is launching yet another new streaming service. "The new service will build upon CBS All Access (which costs $5.99 per month with ads or $9.99 a month without) by offering an assortment of Viacom networks to customers. The company announced its expansive approach to streaming, which ViacomCBS referred to in a press release as 'House of Brands.' Part of the company’s goals to 'accelerate' its presence in the streaming space is to 'take a differentiated approach that builds on ViacomCBS’ unique foundation in streaming, plays to its strengths.' This includes offering live sports and news, similar to what NBCUniversal is doing with Peacock."

Political ads are flooding Hulu, Roku and other streaming services, revealing loopholes in federal election laws

The Washington Post discusses the lack of transparency in the flood of political ads hitting streaming media services, with "watchdogs and regulators fearful that federal election laws aren’t fit for the digital age — and that voters remain vulnerable to manipulation... Campaign finance experts say they are especially concerned about video-streaming services at a moment when more Americans are shifting their viewing habits from cable to the Web." WaPo goes on to point out that "nothing requires these fast-growing digital providers to disclose whom these ads targeted and who viewed them. The absence of federal transparency rules stands in stark contrast with traditional TV broadcasters, such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, which for decades have been required to maintain limited public files about political ads."

The Real Streaming Battle: SVOD vs. vMVPD

"Disney and Apple debuted their streaming services at the end of 2019, and the mainstream media has awoken to the idea that there's a streaming battle going on," says StreamingMedia, but goes on to say that "that's not what's truly interesting here. How people get their entertainment is changing, and that's a bigger story than whether or not Peacock can outperform CBS All Access." The real battle is between subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services (Netflix, Disney+, etc.) and virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) (Sling TV, YouTube TV, etc.) StreamMedia opines that "The heat is entirely with SVO) services... vMVPDs are bloated and expensive, and consumers aren't fond of them. They don't provide a tidy and economical alternative to pay TV. As households cut the cord, take on more SVODs, and shun vMVPDs, it raises the question of whether or not live TV has a future."

WarnerMedia Expands Carriage Deal With YouTube TV

"WarnerMedia said it will expand its existing distribution agreement with YouTube TV for its entertainment, sports and news network content to include its upcoming streaming video service, HBO Max," according to MultiChannel News, which goes on to say that "the deal expands on the existing carriage agreement between the two companies for its TBS, TNT, truTV, CNN, HLN, Turner Classic Movies, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network to add access to the HBO and Cinemax services to the YouTube TV lineup for the first time. As part of a new deal, YouTube TV has also committed to distributing WarnerMedia’s upcoming HBO Max streaming platform when it launches in May."

Disney Plus Is Now on Vizio Smart TVs in Native App

Variety reports that "Disney Plus is available on Vizio’s SmartCast TV platform as a built-in app, making the Mouse House’s subscription-streaming service accessible directly to users of the manufacturer’s 13 million SmartCast-enabled televisions." While users could watch Disney's streaming service through external devices such as Roku and Chromecast, now "Vizio TV owners can launch the app and search for the service’s content directly from their home screens, with support for up to 4K Ultra HD and HDR video formats."

Pluto TV Expected to Generate 30 Million Monthly Viewers by December

MediaPlayNews says that "ViacomCBS has high hopes for ad-supported Pluto TV. Acquired in January 2019 for $340 million, the San Francisco-based service now features 80 content channels, 22 million monthly viewers and has become a cornerstone of the media giant’s digital strategy." In addition, CBS All Access and Showtime OTT have a combined 11 million subscribers, with an expectation of 16 million by the end of the year.

Virtual Pay TV Providers' Growth Slows In 2019

"New digitally delivered pay TV services' subscriber growth slowed in 2019," reportsMediaPost. "So-called virtual pay TV providers -- Sling TV, AT&T TV Now, and others -- now collectively total 9.96 million subscribers, adding 630,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2019 versus the third quarter, according to recent estimates from MoffettNathanson Research. The third quarter of 2019 added 676,000 subscribers from the previous quarter, while the second quarter grew 518,000 from the first quarter."

Hulu is now the biggest live-TV streaming service after Sling subscribers shrink

The slowing growth reported by MediaPost hit Sling TV particularly hard, as FastCompany reports that "Hulu is now officially the top live TV streaming service, overtaking Sling TV for the first time last quarter. Dish Network reported (Wednesday) morning that its Sling TV service finished Q4 2019 with 2.59 million subscribers, having lost 94,000 subscribers from the prior quarter. Hulu + Live TV, meanwhile, continues to grow, finishing last quarter with a record 3.4 million subscribers." A distant 3rd-place goes to YouTube TV with two million subscribers. may receive a referral fee for any purchases or subscriptions made through links on this page. See our full FTC Disclosure Statement for more information.